The following is the statement of Reuben Lawrence, made to a hustings meeting organised by Stirchley Forum. As Reuben was at work, he was not able to attend, and no-one was allowed to speak on his behalf. He was able to submit a brief opening statement and concluding remark, which are reproduced below.
Dear friends, I am unable to be in attendance this evening as I work until 8.00pm. Despite this, my comrades are in the audience with my campaign materials which I hope you will take and read
I come from a working-class family, originally from West Bromwich. I have never been well-off, and have always lived by my means, that being very little in the beginning.
In the hopes of a better life and escape from abject poverty, I enlisted in the British army at the age of 16 and served as a guardsman from then on. Life in the army taught me discipline and gave me an iron will, along with a fierce determination to see things through.
Politically, for most of my (short) adult life, I’ve always felt that politics is not for the working class – the wretched of the earth, as we’re seen from above – and I’ve felt the exclusion and alienation which so many of my generation suffer from.
However, since I left the army and became a socialist I now have a fierce determination to see the working class, the majority of the British public, have the loudest voice in politics.
To that end, I campaign as part of a new electoral group, the Birmingham Worker, a socialist organisation that forbids its members from pursuing a career in politics. Rather, it demands service on behalf workers.
I’ll be brief and straight to the point. We, the British public, bear the brunt of all the rubbish decisions made by our government, both national and local, and we also suffer the consequences.
From British involvement in Iraq to Syria, our government takes the decision to murder innocent people and are not held accountable by us, squandering millions on illegal and unjust wars, waged by a rich few whose lives are never at risk, but fought by the children of the poor like myself.
Local governments are in the hands of the junior partners of the big political forces, the Tories and Labour. Policies in Birmingham by a Labour council, such as the closure of 14 children’s centres, is unjustifiable on the basis of a lack of funding when we consider the £6.6m that was found to pay private contractors and scabs in a vain attempt to defeat our binmen in 2017.
Our citizens are not given any say nor voice in the matter, and our children suffer as a consequence. This election is our chance to voice our disaproval.
We’re told by the local council that there’s no money, and yet when I look at the combined wage package of a handful of top council executives, which for six people is a combined wage package of nearly £800,000, I think back to the bin dispute, where the Labour council wanted to cut the wages of our binmen to save a mere £300,000 a year.
Those workers were rightfully striking to save their livelihoods, put food on their children’s tables and I ask myself: Is this right? How can it be right for a Labour council to break the law by employing scabbing workers?
I come to one conclusion and one conclusion only: it’s Labour, Tory, same old story.
The British public know what’s best for us, our families and our future generations, and it’s high time we did something about that.
Voting is important, but it is not enough, so I hope everyone in Stirchley and everyone they know will consider getting politically active, challenge and question those in power, not just at election time but all the time, fighting for a socialist Britain.